Smith County officials joined hundreds of their peers from around the state in Austin Wednesday through Friday, Aug. 26-28, at the Texas Association of Counties (TAC) 2015 Legislative Conference to discuss common concerns shared by Texas local governments, learn about the biggest issues facing counties and local taxpayers following the 84th Legislature.
County Judge Joel Baker, Commissioner JoAnn Hampton, County Administrator Leonardo Brown, Purchasing Director Kim Gould, Auditor Ann Wilson and Treasurer Kelli White attended the conference.
Commissioner Hampton said it was an interesting conference that provided a wealth of knowledge on issues pertaining to county government. She said they learned about veteran health issues and how veterans can access benefits; emergency management issues; volunteer management; how to access FEMA funds; continuity of operations and mental health diversion programs.
Brown said one of the main focuses of the conference revolved around the theme, “Texas Counties Deliver.” Texas’ 254 counties deliver effective, efficient, local solutions to residents despite facing numerous challenges every day.
While all counties are “in this together,” they are all uniquely different and need to communicate better the work being done to tackle challenges, he said. The county officials were encouraged to educate the public on how they deliver services that create value to residents.
“Some people don’t really know what you’re about unless you tell them,” Brown said. “We need to do a better job communicating that… We want to highlight our services.”
Notable speakers included Sen. John Whitmire, (D-Houston), the chair of the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice, who discussed the juvenile justice budget, its impact on county programs and new policies that were enacted during the legislative session; and Texas Secretary of State Carlos Cascos, who spoke about border security.
“The Legislative Conference is the one time each year county officials from around the state can get together as peers to discuss common issues and potential solutions to our shared challenges; and discuss how the legislative session impacts that,” TAC Executive Director Gene Terry said. “It is also a perfect opportunity to meet and visit with our colleagues in the legislature outside the whirlwind of the session, to discuss issues and solutions for the next session in 2017.”
TAC works to unite Texas counties together in search of solutions for challenges faced by all counties and to provide services to support county officials in the vital work they do for their local communities.